Book Title: Stepping Stones: A Memoir of Addiction, Loss, and Transformation
Publisher: She Writes Press
Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Marilea: Writing is a tool I have used all my life to try and make sense of some of the things that had been happening to me. My diaries go back to when I was a child. Whenever I am distressed about something, I write about it. Putting my thoughts on paper usually helps me to arrive at some form of clarity. And now I share my thoughts with others, another important part of the process. Other people are critical mirrors to help me take in valuable perspectives on what’s going on. Take in…and consider. There is much that I don’t know, and accepting help from others is an important part of the healing process. It’s also an important part of the writing process. I would be lost without all the great editors who have helped me shape my books.
When I wrote my first book six years ago, I had been dealing with losing my daughter to the hellish world of heroin addiction. It was the biggest challenge I had ever faced in my life, and so, as I had always done before, I decided to write about it. My writing started out as an angry rant, but over time evolved into a powerful memoir, one full of self-discovery.
Life keeps happening, doesn’t it, and I realized that my first “memoir of recovery” wasn’t quite finished. I still had more substance use issues to face that I hadn’t dealt with in my first book. Throughout my battle to save my daughter, my emotional pain found relief, just as my father’s had many years before this, in a bottle. So Stepping Stones is really a sequel to my first memoir, though the focus is on me and not my daughter. I wrote it to try and heal from the alcoholism that was threatening me. I’m hoping to gift my children and grandchildren with the salient lessons I have learned on how to live well and happily. I want to pay it forward for the next generation and make a difference where it most matters to me.
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Marilea: I chose to publish with She Writes Press, which is a hybrid company in business for a while, with Brooke Warner at the helm. I chose SWP because of their first-rate reputation and their success rate with authors. Traditional publishing was not an option for me, and the small press I used with my first book was lacking in some areas, so SWP seemed like a nice compromise. It also vets potential authors carefully and that matters to me. Many small publishing houses will publish anything that crosses their desk. But She Writes Press is very discriminating, and publishing with them carries a certain amount of distinction.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Marilea: It was all pretty straightforward. There was an early glitch that was easily resolved. My project manager and all the editors and hidden faces at She Writes Press were endlessly helpful and supportive. There’s also a well-thought-out timeline to get things done in a timely manner. They’re very organized at SWP. I think the most distinguishing factor in my mind is the thoroughness of their work, their willingness to do and redo the work until everyone—and not just the publisher—is satisfied with the end product. That takes professionalism, time, patience, and a determination to turn out their best product. I’m happy to be part of such a process, as well as its beneficiary.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Marilea: The industry is changing. Traditional publishing is no longer the best way to go and fortunately there are many other options for writers who want to become authors. Brooke Warner and her team have written a handbook for all the authors which has been instrumental in educating us about parts of the industry we may not have known about. One thing that Brooke stressed to all of us is the importance of investing in some form of publicity campaign. There are simply too many books out there to choose from, and if we don’t make an effort to publicize what we write, few people will know about it. I learned to put my faith in the professionals and to avoid small skirmishes which might have been draining. My experience with She Writes Press has been a positive one, and I highly recommend them.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Marilea: Self-publishing? Absolutely! Many of us, myself included, have no other option. But do your research. There are many publishing houses to choose from, and a thorough search is necessary to find the best one for you. Something else I’ve learned, because there is a huge variety of self-publishing houses out there, is that you get what you pay for.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Marilea: Keep writing. Write every day. Be disciplined about it, like calisthenics, or healthy eating, or pruning your fruit trees. Don’t procrastinate. We always find time in life for things and people that matter to us, so if you want to be a writer, then write. Our daily routines and activities say everything about what is in our hearts and our minds. When writing is there, it becomes a natural and effortless part of our daily routine.
About the Book
Addiction is a stealth predator. Unrecognized, it will grow and flourish. Unchecked, it destroys.
Marilea grew up in post-WWII Massachusetts in a family that lived comfortably and offered her every advantage. But there were closely guarded family secrets. Alcoholism reached back through several generations, and it was not openly discussed. Shame and stigma perpetuated the silence. Marilea became part of this ongoing tragedy.
Her story opens with the death of her mother. Though not an alcoholic, it is her inability to cope with the dysfunction in her life that sets her daughter up for a multitude of problems.
We follow Marilea from an unhappy childhood, to her life overseas in the diplomatic service, to now, living on an island in Puget Sound. What happens in the intervening years is a compelling tale of travel, motherhood, substance use disorder, and heartbreaking loss. The constant thread throughout this story is the many faces and forms of addiction, stalking her like an obsessed lover, and with similar rewards. What, if anything, will free her of the masks she has worn all her life?
Read Marilea’s inspiring recovery story and learn how she wrestles with the demons that have plagued her.